Nicholas Iacovella ’20 had a long road ahead of him, graduating in Spring 2020 at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. After an initially frustrating job search, he doubled back and honed his jobhunting skills and strategies, formulating a plan that secured him his latest job: a quality control position with Charm Sciences! Today, he joins us to discuss his new search strategies, food science, and his advice to fellow students.
Hi, Nicholas! Thanks for joining us, and congrats on your full-time analyst position at Charm Sciences! You got this position around the start of the year—how has it been, and what are you doing in your role?
Thank you for inviting me to participate in this Working Warriors feature! Overall, my experience at my new job has been great. I’m finally working full-time in the life sciences industry, which is a field of science I am passionate about. I have been using skills that I acquired from courses at Merrimack and my internship at Pfizer, but this new job has been a learning experience since I’ve been practicing scientific techniques that are utilized for food safety. The company I work for manufactures diagnostic tests, components, and standards for the food and beverage industries. As a quality control analyst, I perform various tests to assure the quality of these products. Our contributions allow Charm Sciences Inc. to sell products that keep humans and animals healthy.
I’m so glad you’ve found a job you’re so passionate about! You’ve probably heard this a million times, but as a part of the Class of 2020, you entered the professional world right when the pandemic began. From May 2020 to now, what did your journey to full-time employment look like?
I began my job search in February 2020, and there seemed to be an abundance of open positions. I thought it was the right time to start searching for job opportunities, because I would be able finish the spring semester and start my career after graduation. Then, in the middle of March, the global COVID-19 pandemic began and the number of available jobs began to diminish—especially entry level positions. It made the process much more difficult; I did not get a job interview until August 2020, but the employer picked another candidate for the position. At that point I decided to take a break from job applications, as it was exhausting. During that period, I saw that other recent college graduates were getting hired for jobs, and it made me think that I wasn’t putting enough effort into my job search.
I began by contacting Laura Thibodeau, my career advisor. She advised using strategies such as social networking, reaching out to recruiters, and even searching for internship opportunities. Laura encouraged me to keep searching for jobs, and to not give up. Our meeting motivated me to start searching again and I began to change up my job search strategies. I was applying to full time jobs and internships, I studied videos on interview tips, I thought of new ways to improve my resume and cover letters, and I began to message recruiters on Linkedin. Near the end of January 2021, I was finally contacted by multiple companies for job interviews.
I decided to accept the offer from Charm Sciences, because I felt my job responsibilities complemented my academic background. Another reason why I accepted the job offer is that I thought it would be a great fit, because it had to do with food. I have worked in the food industry throughout my life, and my whole family has been involved in the food industry too. I feel content knowing that my contributions assist Charm Sciences in making a positive impact on food safety, and making the world a healthier place.
Wow, that’s quite the journey. I can see how it would be disheartening to see the job listings shrink. In the interim of 2020, what did you do for alternate experience?
For my last semester, I concluded my senior research course by writing a thesis paper about my work. To accomplish this, I took extra time to extensively study papers to base my research on, and sought help from Dr. Fernandez. It took a great amount of time, but I was able to finish the paper and receive accreditation from the American Chemical Society. I am proud of this accomplishment, and I feel it has prepared me for graduate school, which is something I feel I should pursue in the future.
Congrats on your accreditation! Pre-pandemic, you were a Summer 2019 intern for Pfizer. That’s a huge opportunity! How did you find and secure it?
I found out about this internship through Handshake. It was also highlighted by faculty members of the chemistry and biochemistry departments at Merrimack. What was special about this internship, was that it was only for Merrimack students. Merrimack and Pfizer have a special contract for this type of internship. Initially, I was not planning on applying, as my previous attempts of getting an internship had failed. But I decided to go for it, and soon after, I received an interview invite email from a senior scientist at Pfizer.
I went to the interview a little nervous, as I felt I wasn’t well-prepared, but the interview ended up being a pleasant conversation, and I was offered the internship. It was a great learning experience, as I was introduced to new lab techniques and documentation practices that are common in the life sciences industry. I felt the experience prepared me for a full-time job in this field, and it confirmed that life sciences was the right career choice for me.
What would you say has been most vital to your career journey so far: skill development, or networking? And why?
I believe that developing interview skills has been most vital to my career journey. Initially, it was something that I was not good at. You can be highly qualified for a job opportunity, but if you can’t do well in an interview, you will not receive a job offer. Prior to getting the job at Charm Sciences, I spent hours studying videos on interviews, studying company missions, and practiced giving responses to various questions. With all this preparation, I was able to do interviews in a professional and confident manner. In addition to interview skills, I feel social networking is highly critical. In my job search struggle, I began to reach out to recruiters on LinkedIn, and it resulted in invitations to interviews, and eventually job offers.
Finally: do you have any shoutouts to make, or advice for your peers?
I want to thank all of the faculty at the Chemistry and Biochemistry, especially Jimmy Franco, Anthony Fernandez, Joseph Chiarelli and Mark McCoy who all had a profound impact on me and gave me invaluable advice. Also, I want to thank Laura Thibodeau for all the help she provided during my time at Merrimack. My advice to my peers: be tenacious, and don’t be afraid of going outside of your comfort zone.
As a student who studied biochemistry and mathematics I encountered many challenges during my courses and sometimes experienced failure. However, I felt that I learned from those moments of adversity and it strengthened me as a person. As a college graduate, I think of the rigorous education and training that I received and believe that I can achieve anything as long as I remain dedicated to the goal. College can be a difficult process for anyone, no matter what the field of study is. If you can earn a college degree, you can conquer the world!
One last thing: I want to thank the O’Brien Center for Career Development again for inviting me to this Working Warriors feature, and I hope my story can inspire Merrimack students to achieve great success.
Thanks so much for joining us, Nicholas! We’re so glad to feature you, and all this great advice! And thank you all for reading this latest Working Warrior story!
Are you ready to secure an internship or employment for the fall and beyond? The O’Brien Center for Career Development is here to help you! Visit Handshake today to search for open opportunities, meet with your career advisor, and more.